County seeing growing number of centenarians
“Kids were well-behaved when I was child,” said Irene Lanzendorfer. “Back then, we listened to our parents.”
The year Lanzendorfer was born, the U.S. House of Representatives rejected a proposal to give women the right to vote. The transcontinental telephone service from New York to San Francisco was inaugurated and the British ocean liner, the Lusitania, was sunk by a German submarine.
“Cars were just beginning — the tires were made of hard rubber,” she said. “We had a cow, so we made our own milk and butter, and my grandmother taught me to sew. I married at 18.”
Born in 1915, Lanzendorfer recently celebrated her 100th birthday in February. While she and her fellow centenarians are still rare enough to be featured in the newspaper, times are changing.
The Union has seen a noticeable increase in submissions for Nevada County citizens older than 100, and area nursing homes are seeing the same.
At Spring Hill Manor Rehabilitation & Convalescent Hospital in Grass Valley, Lanzendorfer is one of eight residents 100 years old or older — the oldest is 106.
“People today know much more about how to take care of themselves,” said Barbara Larsen, a Nevada County geriatric care specialist who has been working in the field of dementia care since 1985. “We have a much greater focus on how to take care of ourselves through exercise, prevention and diet, such as the Mediterranean diet.”
In 2011, psychologists Howard S. Friedman and Leslie R. Martin published “The Longevity Project,” based on an eight-decade Stanford study of 1,500 children that began in 1921. In addition to diet, genetics, exercise and education, it seems that personality types can play a role as well.
One surprising trait was conscientiousness, meaning “the qualities of a prudent, persistent, well-organized person — somewhat obsessive and not at all carefree,” wrote Friedman and Martin. Conscientious people are more likely to make healthier choices when it comes to their careers, their spouses and avoiding smoking or speeding, the research found.
Another was being “friendly and convivial,” but not to an excessive degree. Research suggests that those who consider themselves a “people person” may expose themselves to unhealthy behaviors. But those who chose healthy habits and healthy friendships saw noticeable health benefits.
“I’m very social,” said Iris Goldberg, a Spring Hill Manor resident who will turn 100 on April 20. “I love bingo and I’m a very sharp card player — it keeps you going. I have wonderful children who love me and beautiful grandchildren and great-grandchildren — they all love me so much.”
It’s estimated that 71 percent of Nevada County residents will be 60 or older by the year 2020, and baby boomers are beginning to flood into long-term care facilities.
“About 50 percent of people over 85 will have Alzheimer’s or some related form of dementia,” said Larson. “Many Nevada County residents are caring for their parents while caring for their children or grandchildren. This is a real balancing act.”
While Goldberg says she doesn’t know why she’s lived this long, Lanzendorfer says it’s in her genes.
“There is a tradition in our family of living long lives,” she said. “My father died at 97, mom at 92 and Grandma at 94. My Grandpa lived to be 94, but his death was an accident — he was a roofer and fell off a roof.”
Lanzendorfer says she’s also just too stubborn to die, that she refuses to give up.
“I have to say, I was a little concerned when I saw my 100th birthday announcement in the paper,” she said. “They ran it on the same page as the obituaries.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com.
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